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Do We Understand Mass Shootings?

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              Over the last couple of years, one of the big issues in Gun-control Nation has been what appears to be an increase in ‘mass’ shootings which are defined as at least four victims shot at the same time and the same place with some saying it has to be four dead victims and others saying that it has to be four people shot whether they live or die.

              You can get a good summary of all the different definitions of ‘mass’ shootings floating around in Tom Gabor’s lively book, Carnage – Preventing Mass Shootings in America. You can also see a daily summary of mass shootings in the Gun Violence Archive.

              With all due respect to the honest and intelligent work being done by these two research efforts on mass shootings, I happen to think they are barking up the wrong tree. And in the process, the gun-control community is being led in a direction they shouldn’t need to go.

              Let’s go back to the night of February 11, 2015, in Tulsa, OK, where two jerks burst into a barber shop one night, one of them spraying the place with an AK-47. Their target was a member of a rival gang who was waiting to get his hair cut.

              The shooter with the assault rifle dropped more than twenty caps but didn’t hit the intended target even once. Three men were wounded and a fourth who owned the barber shop took a round in his head and immediately dropped dead.

              The two assholes with their AK-47 were arrested shortly after the assault. The victim, who was considered a righteous and beloved member of the African-American community, was killed simply because his head was in the way.

              Several days after the shooting, I had a conversation with one of the detectives who covered this case, a street cop with more than ten years’ experience chasing down the jerks who commit such stupid, meaningless, and violent crimes.

              I asked him the following question: “How come the guy with the AK-47 sprayed rounds all over the place? Why didn’t he just point the gun at the intended target and pull the trigger once or twice?”

              His immediate response: “They always do it like that. They shoot every round in the gun. They just want to see how many rounds they can get off. They don’t care if they hit someone or not.”

              Next time you watch the local news report about a shooting you’ll notice that the cops always mark every empty shell they find in the street. They do this because it’s a good way to figure out what really happened, since in most street shootings the witnesses didn’t see ‘nuttin,’ even if they were standing next to the guy who got shot.

              Want to define mass shootings in a way that will help us understand why they happen and what we need to do to eliminate them from daily life? Why don’t we start by first analyzing the events themselves?

              What we will discover is exactly what the Tulsa cop told me, namely, that the number of shots fired often has little to do with who gets injured or killed. The guns that are used for most shootings these days resulting in someone other than the shooter getting hurt, happen to be guns which hold fifteen, or twenty, or even thirty rounds.

              When you get a chance, take a look at one of an endless number of websites which host video shooting games. My favorite is a website called Crazy Games, which gives you a choice of more than fifty shooting games. You can sit on your computer and shoot rapid-fire guns all day long.

              Or better yet, you can take some cash, maybe a thousand dollars or so, and buy an AR-15 rifle or Glock pistol by just walking down the street. Usually, the seller will also throw in a box of ammo for the gun. And by the way, a thousand for an AR-15 isn’t all that much when you consider that a pair of Air Jordans will set you back two hundred bucks.

              Isn’t it time we stopped screwing around by continuing to insist that mass shootings occur because guns get into the ‘wrong hands?’ As far as I’m concerned, any gun that can pop off thirty rounds of military-grade ammunition in fifteen seconds or less is a gun that can only be used by someone with the ‘wrong hands.’

Will The AR-15 Disappear From California?

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Yesterday the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, announced a novel and significant approach to gun violence which, if it becomes law in California, I can only hope will spread.  The initiative, according to Newsom, was copied from the new Texas law which allows residents to sue someone who offers abortions which violate the state’s new abortion ban. In California, the state has passed a ban on assault rifles, and Newsom wants state residents to be able to sue anyone who ‘manufactures, distributes or sells’ an assault rifle in the Golden State.

When this initiative was announced, members of Gun-nut Nation in California immediately began whining about how such a law would deprive gun owners of their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

There has never been a gun-control law announced anywhere in the United States which doesn’t violate the s0-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Of course, the fact that the 2nd Amendment happens to be an amendment and not a ‘right’ is somehow always left unsaid. A reader sent me a message stating that I was just a typical example of the ‘insidious, Left-wing mentality’ that has been destroying American life since World War II.”

There are actually people sitting around who think that way. Luckily, I suspect that most of them live in those red states where nobody is vaccinated which means they won’t be around to vote in 2022 or restore Trump to his rightful place in the Oval Office in 2024. Oh well. Anyway, back to Newsom.

The history of the United States is usually written to show that the country developed from East to West. So, for example, with the exception of the West Coast, we added states from East to West. We also opened the frontier to farming and human settlement from East to West.

But when it comes to nuttiness, things usually go the other way. After all, the shift of the GOP to nutty, right-wing ideas started in California with Ronald Reagan when he first ran for President in 1978. And what food product has ruined billions of cups of coffee? Half and half, which the dairy industry started selling in the 1960’s but was also first produced in the Golden State.

Except I don’t think that Newsom’s idea of giving residents the legal authority to express how they feel about the guy next door sitting there in front of his TV with a can of beer on the coffee table and his AR-15 on his lap is nutty at all. In fact, to the contrary, and let me tell you why.

When the first assault-rifle law was proposed, and it was also in California, by the way, the gun industry attacked the law because the AR-15 was a semi-auto design and hence, a ‘sporting’ gun. Semi-automatic guns had been used for hunting and sport since the semi-automatic design was developed by John Browning in 1898, and the AR-15 was just a ‘modern’ adaptation of Browning’s original design and the ‘modern sporting rifle’ had no connection to assault rifles sat all.

This was a good argument, a clever argument, an argument to keep the AR-15 design from being thrown on the ash heap of gun designs by liberal gun-haters like Michal Bloomberg, et. al.

There was only one little problem. The argument that the AR-15 was no different from any other semi-automatic rifle was simply wrong.

What makes the AR-15 dangerous and a threat to community safety is not whether only one round comes out of the barrel every time the trigger is pulled. The issue is how many rounds can be fired out of the gun before it needs to be reloaded and how much time is required to reload the gun.

The kid who blasted his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 26 adults and children in less than 3 minutes because over that period of time he fired more than 90 rounds! He got off that many shots in such a brief period of time because the AR-15 is a bottom-loading gun, so he was able to attach magazines holding 30 rounds to the bottom of the frame and switch from empty to full mags in two seconds or less,

If anything, firing a semi-auto gun is easier and more accurate to control than a full-auto gun, which is why the assault rifle currently issued to our military troops, the M4A1, can be fired in semi-auto mode.

If you are convinced that the AR-15 represents a danger to life and limb, the only thin you can do right now is send an email to your Congressional rep or send some dough to one of the national, gun-control groups which is trying to ban the gun. In other words, you can only express your worried and fears on a second-hand basis.

But let’s not forget that for every gun owner out there, there are probably two adults who don’t own guns. And if a bunch of them were to send a message to the powers-that-be about some guy wandering down the street with his AR-15….

The Militia Threat Is Real – So Is My F-15.

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              Sooner or later, I knew it was going to happen. The liberal media would wake up to the fact that the so-called militia ‘movement’ isn’t just a bunch of fat, old White guys eating some pizza, drinking some beer, and then romping around in the woods with their guns.

              Yesterday, the Massachusetts State Police chased a bunch of heavily-armed men into a wooded area on I-95 about 10 miles north of Boston. The highway was closed down, the SWAT teams showed up, the negotiations went back and forth, and the insurrectionists finally gave up. No shots were fired, nobody was hurt.

              The group turned out to be members of something called the Rise of the Moors, an outfit in Rhode Island which has, of course, the usual website and professes to be part of the Nation of Moorish-Americans who do not believe that they are citizens of the United States. Hence, they do no feel obligated to obey American laws, or pay American taxes, or submit to American sovereignty in any other way.

              Why were a bunch of these self-proclaimed separatists sitting on the shoulder of I-95 in Wakefield, MA filling up one of the vehicles in their caravan with gas? Because they were on their way to Maine for ‘training,’ whatever that means. Give me a break.

              What did the liberal media do as soon as this story made the news?  They called up the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, both organizations immediately characterizing the Rise of the Moors as an ‘extremist movement.’ I mean, what else is the ADL going to say? The last movement that the SPLC or the ADL investigated that wasn’t an ‘extremist movement’ was the Boy Scouts, and even then, they weren’t completely sure.

              If there’s one legacy which has come out of the Trump years and refuses to go away, it’s the idea that all you have to do is let some idiots walk around with assault rifles who say they are protecting us from the ‘tyranny’ of the Deep State, and you have proof that the militia movement is here to stay and getting worse every day. One of the really accomplished liberal journalists, Lucian Truscott (who should know better) just put up a piece on Salon in which he claims that the GOP has shifted so far to the Right that the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers are the party’s base.

              And what do these groups all share in common? They all call themselves ‘militias’ and they all love to strut around showing off their guns. Don’t forget – they have military commanders like General Roger Stone getting them in line for the next charge up San Juan – oops! – I mean Capitol Hill.

              I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of what happened on January 6th. But I really think that our man Joe is correct when he says that if you want to take on the American government, you’d better have something more than an AR-15, like maybe an F-15, okay?

              The day after he made that comment some idiots on a Facebook gun group to which I belong began telling each other that they knew some guy who owned his own F-15. When I mentioned that a 30-foor, cigar-shaped aluminum cylinder with wings but without avionics or weapons is a replica and not a real warplane, I was denounced as just another anti-gun liberal who’s on the payroll of the Deep State. Which, since I conduct lethal-force certifications for federal law-enforcement agencies, happens to be true.

              I guess because I sold maybe 100 or more assault rifles in my gun shop between 2001 and 2015, I just can’t find myself getting all worked up about the ‘threat’ posed by either the home-grown protectors of the Constitution indicted after January 6th, or by the followers of Sharia law arrested in Wakefield yesterday.

              I’ve actually attended a couple of militia ‘training’ sessions out in the woods. The pizza was still warm, and the beer was cold.

How Come The Assault-Rifle Ban In California Was Overturned?

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Just under a month ago, Judge Robert Benitez overturned California’s assault weapon ban, a ruling greeted with hosannas from the mountaintops of Gun-nut Nation, and with equally-loud expressions of dismay and anger from the gun-control side. The judge called the 1989 ban a ‘failed experiment’ because the prohibition did not do what it was supposed to do, namely, protect California residents from the threat to public safety allegedly represented by that type of gun.

To the contrary, Judge Benitez found that the ‘modern sporting rifle,’ or AR-15, had become a favored consumer product for self-defense. Moreover, from testimony and briefs presented at the trial, if anything, the AR-15 was a better and more reliable self-defense weapon than a handgun. And since the Heller decision recognizes the ‘right’ of citizens to keep self-defense weapons in their homes, the California assault-rifle ban needed to be shut down.

How did our friends in Gun-control Nation respond? By doing what they usually do, which was to attack the credibility and the testimony of the pro-gun witnesses, leading off with the ‘mis-information’ provided to the District Court by the hated John Lott. So, for example, Devin Hughes backs up his criticism of Lott’s ‘mis-information’ by citing data which shows that California had the 7th-lowest rate of gun deaths in 2020.

There’s only one little problem.  Hughes got this ‘data’ from Giffords, which based its ranking of California’s gun-death rate on all causes of gun deaths, not just deaths from gun assaults. The moment you pull gun suicides out of the overall number of gun deaths, California becomes the 28th highest of all 50 states.  And there’s no discussion at all about suicides and assault rifles in the California case. Who’s mis-informing who (or whom?)

What bothers me about the reaction of Gun-control Nation to the Benitez decision is that it’s a perfect example of what the gun-control community gets wrong whenever it attempts to either promote more regulations of guns (i.e., an assault-weapons ban) or tries to block an attempt by the other side to make it easier for people to buy, own and use guns. What Gun-control Nation gets wrong again and again, is that you don’t regulate an industry when your knowledge of that industry and its products add up to zilch.

The stupidest section of the Benitez decision (Section III, A, 1) was where the Judge ran through a whole series of examples to ‘prove’ that the ‘prohibited features’ on the AR-15 (adjustable stock, handgrip, etc.) makes the gun a much more effective weapon for home defense than a pistol or a shotgun, the usual weapons that people keep around their homes for self-defense.

So what if the hand grip makes it easier for someone defending their home because they only need to hold the gun with one hand? So what if an adjustable stock makes it easier to keep the gun’s recoil under control? The whole point about the AR-15, which not one so-called ‘expert’ for the State of California pointed out, was that the AR-15 wasn’t designed to be a ‘sporting’ gun. It was designed to do one thing and one thing only; namely, to end human life.

And not just to end one human life. The kid who broke his way into the Sandy Hook school in 2012 needed less than 5 minutes to shoot and kill 26 adults and children, and much of that time was spent moving from room to room. In the slightly less than 3 minutes that he actually used the gun, he fired off more than 90 rounds. That’s a sporting gun?

Until and unless my friends in Gun-control Nation start learning something about the industry and the products produced by that industry that they want to regulate in more effective ways, they will continue to find themselves losing legal arguments to the Gun-nut gang. Would the SEC roll out a new regulation without first running it past people who actually work in Wall Street firms?

What Is An Assault Rifle?: Weisser, Michael R.: 9798728410980: Amazon.com: Books

An Important Decision On California’s Assault-Rifle Ban.

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              Yesterday was Wear Orange Day, which has become something of a national event for my friends in Gun-control Nation. The concerts, demonstrations and other public gatherings that take place to remember and memorialize victims of gun violence have now been going on since 2015.

              This year, however, Wear Orange Day was marked by a rather unique and auspicious event, namely, a decision by Federal District Court Judge Roger Benitez, which overturned California’s assault weapon ban and reinstated the ‘right’ of California’s law-abiding residents to buy and own an AR-15.

              If you want, you can take the trouble to download and read through the 94-page decision or you can save yourself the trouble and reflect on the one sentence [Page 80] which sums up the whole thing: “the point is that most of what the Attorney General says are dangerous features on a prohibited modern rifle are also features on a Second Amendment-protected semiautomatic pistol.”

              I’m not saying that I’m happy with the California assault-weapons ban being lifted, although this case will obviously now continue winding its way through the courts.  What I am saying is that, like it or not, Judge Benitez got it right whereas every other advocate and legal expert on both sides of this issue has gotten it wrong. The whole notion of defining an ‘assault rifle’ based on its design, its mechanical features, or its add-on doodads (flash suppressor, sliding stock, etc.) is absurd.

              Worse, my friends in Gun-control Nation who promote an assault-weapons ban based on the lethality of such guns invariably trot out the number of people who are killed or wounded by AR’s. This is also a non-argument, and contradictions which appeared in the testimony of experts (Klarevas, Allen) about the number of mass shootings was cited by Judge Benitez in knocking down California’s case.

              From 1999 through 2019, my state – Massachusetts – reported 206 cases of West Nile virus, maybe three infected individuals died. Does that mean I don’t need to spray myself with mosquito-repellant when I go for a walk in the woods?

              On the other hand, the idea promoted by Judge Benitez that a particular weapon’s popularity is some kind of proof that it falls under the umbrella of Constitutionally-protected guns is equally, if not more bizarre. He states that nearly two million AR-type rifles were purchased in 2018 and then says, “After handguns, modern rifles are probably the most popular firearms in America. They are quietly owned by millions of law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes ranging from home defense to sporting competitions.” {Page 16-17.]

              So what? In 2020, there were at least 35 million Americans who consumed more than 16 bags of potato chips that year. Should we avoid talking about banning this extraordinarily-unhealthy processed food because so many people sit on their rear ends playing video games while chomping away?

              The AR-style rifle is the usual weapon of choice used by individuals who really want to kill a lot of people in a brief period of time (James Holmes in Aurora, Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook, Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, Omar Mateen in Orlando, et. al.) But the kid who killed and wounded 50 people at Virginia Tech in 2007 used a handgun, a point cited by Judge Benitez in his defense of 2nd-Amendment protection for assault rifles quoted above.

              The fact that Americans can easily buy handguns with certain design features similar to assault rifles is no reason to extend 2nd-Amendment protection to the latter types of guns. Why not simply remove Constitutional protection from bottom-loading, semi-automatic handguns?

              The reason we suffer from gun violence is because some Americans buy into the silly and stupid notion that they can walk into a gun shop, leave with a Sig or a Glock, take it to the local gun range, shoot it a couple of times and now they’re ready to defend themselves against either a ‘street thug’ or the ‘tyranny of the state.’

              The good news about Miller v. Bonta is that maybe it will provoke a serious and informed discussion within Gun-control Nation about what their strategy for reducing gun violence should really be.

Sandy Hook: A Man Sold A Gun: Weisser, Michael R: 9780692945025: Amazon.com: Books

Why Don’t We Just Get Rid Of The Guns That Are Used To Commit Gun Violence?

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              Yesterday’s column raises concerns about the failure of my friends in Gun-research Nation to discuss the issue of banning the guns which cause gun violence, i.e., assault rifles and what I call ‘killer pistols.’ In case you didn’t know it, both types of guns are designed only to kill or injure yourself or someone else. You can get a clear explanation of why such guns are too lethal for commercial sale and private ownership right here.

              Until and unless we bite the bullet (pardon the pun) and get rid of those guns, we will argue with the other side over various half-baked measures that won’t accomplish much at all. Sorry, but universal background checks won’t change matters much unless the data from those checks is tied into a national registration system. Sorry, CAP laws may keep kids from shooting themselves or a playmate, but such shootings account for less than 5% of all gun violence events.

              As for the development of so-called ‘safe’ guns which can only be fired if the user is validated through some kind of electronic gizmo attached to the gun, it will take some intrepid gun nut with a basic understanding of gun design about two hours to figure out how to put the ‘safe’ gun back to being unsafe. And then up goes the video on YouTube, okay?

              By remaining silent on banning guns that have no sporting use at all, we let the other side completely control this discussion, even if what they say has no relationship to the facts at all. For example, Gun-nut Nation says that government can’t ban a semi-automatic gun because the 2nd Amendment protects gun ‘rights.’

              The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with ‘rights.’ It’s an amendment, not a ‘right.’ How do we define ‘rights?’ We pass laws, and what are right and wrong behaviors involving guns, has been defined in four federal guns laws, each and every law upheld by liberal and conservative judges and courts.

              If we are ever going to pass another meaningful law to reduce gun violence, the law has to address the reason we have gun violence. In other words, we must do what other countries do and restrict gun ownership to sporting and hunting guns. 

              But we don’t do that. And worse, the people we depend on to define effective gun reforms go out of their way to avoid discussing this issue at all. The result? A majority of Americans, which happens to include people who don’t own guns, are opposed to any gun ban at all.

              I have been running a survey about banning assault rifles and have collected 957 responses, of whom 70% (680) say they own an AR-15 or another type of assault rifle. A majority of the owners, say they shoot the guns rarely, if at all. Only one-third of the owners of assault rifles say they have the gun for self-defense, but only 2% of the entire respondent population say that an AR-15 is too dangerous to own! You can download the complete survey right here.

              How many of the 957 respondents say they oppose an AR ban?  Try 44, which is less than 5%, and when the ban is defined as not grandfathering in existing guns, support for a ban drops to 2%. 

              Most of the respondents to this survey are gun owners, even if one-third don’t own assault guns. But that’s exactly the point. Because as long as gun owners continue to believe that a gun, particularly an assault-style gun, is something which everyone should have lying around the house, then the idea that we will see meaningful gun reform is about as real as the idea that Donald Trump will get re-elected in 2024.

              I am yet to be convinced that the scholars and advocates who want to reduce gun violence are capable of sitting down and having a frank, open and honest discussion of what they need to say to gun owners about the risk of owning guns.

              I hope I’m wrong.

What’s Wrong With Banning Guns?

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              Our friend David Hemenway has just been interviewed by The Harvard Gazette about Joe’s ideas for gun control and finds the strategies “excellent” and “good first steps to reduce the terrible problem of firearm violence in the U.S.”

            Down the road, David says, we’ll need to do more things, like universal background checks, better training, better safety standards for how guns are designed and more liability for gun owners who allow their guns to end up in the ‘wrong hands.’

              I have been listening to David and his public-health research friends talk about reducing gun violence for the past 25 or so years. They make the same arguments that David made to The Harvard Gazette again, again, and again. Sometimes they throw in a few more ideas, like requiring an individual permit for each purchase of a gun, or extending ‘red flag’ laws, or getting rid of those laws that allow someone to use a gun to defend themselves when they are threatened by someone else.

              Meanwhile, what none of these well-meaning researchers ever point out is one, simple fact about gun violence, which is that intentional fatal and non-fatal gun injuries (which happens to be how the WHO defines violence) are committed overwhelmingly by one type of gun.

              What type of gun am I talking about? Semi-automatic guns which load from underneath the frame of the gun. If the gun has a barrel of 16 inches or longer, it’s a rifle. If the barrel is shorter than 16 inches, it’s a handgun.

              The reason why this is the design of guns which are used in most shootings is because, believe it or not, that’s what these guns are designed to do. A Glock 17 which holds 16 rounds of military-grade ammunition isn’t a ‘sporting’ gun. An AR-15 which can take a magazine that holds 40 or 50 rounds isn’t what you use to go out and trek after Bambi in the woods.

              The whole point of designing a gun which accepts bottom-loading magazines is that if the magazine were stuck into the gun from above the frame, it would get in the way of the shooter when he aims the gun.

              Of course, researchers like Hemenway know that gun injuries are overwhelmingly a function of access to semi-automatic, bottom-loading guns. So why don’t they ever mention that banning such weapons would bring gun-violence rates way down? Why is it that every time one of these researchers points out that our gun-violence rate is 7 to 25 times higher than other countries, they then forget to mention that none of those other countries allow their residents to own semi-automatic, bottom-loading guns?

              Oops – I forgot!  There’s something out there called the 2nd Amendment which gives every law-abiding individual the ‘right’ to own a gun. And thanks to the essay by our friend Sandy Levinson reminding all his liberal, academic friends that the 2nd Amendment is as valid and as important as the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, we just avoid the idea that maybe, just maybe we should rethink the gun ban issue again.

              Actually, there has been some noise about calling for a ban on assault rifles, the reason being that those are the kinds of weapons which are used in the big, gugga-mugga shootings, like the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the elementary school in Sandy Hook, or the Las Vegas event.

              But the mass slaughters, what our friend Louis Klarevas calls ‘gun rampages’ don’t add more than 3% to the random, daily shootings which total at least 125,000 fatal and non-fatal injuries every year. At least 28 people were shot in Chicago over this past weekend. Big deal.

              By the way, when the town of town of Highland Park enacted a ban on assault rifles which was followed by a similar ban covering all of Cook County, the conservative, pro-gun Supreme Court let both laws stand.

              One of these days (hope, hope) my academic friends who do gun research will stop quaking when someone accuses them of being against gun ‘rights’ and will do the right thing and talking honestly about getting rid of guns.

In case you haven’t yet signed: https://www.change.org/bankillerhandgunsnow and https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now.

Why Ban Assault Rifles?

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              Here are 5 reasons why Mike the Gun Guy, a bone-fide gun nut, believes that assault rifles should be banned. Not regulated – banned.

Reason #1: Assault rifles are the weapons of choice when someone wants to kill as many people as possible.  Since 2012 there have been 10 mass shootings resulting in 30 or more dead or wounded victims. Every single one of these shootings was accomplished with and AR or an AK.

              Reason #2. Mass shootings like Parkland, Sandy Hook or Aurora kill or wound less than 3% of all gun victims each year, but these events devastate the communities in which they occur.  The Sandy Hook Elementary School had to be torn down after 2012 because residents of Newtown suffered emotional trauma every time they drove past the site.

              Reason #3. Assault rifles like AR-15s, and AK-47s are not (read: not) sporting guns. They are designed and used as tactical weapons, i.e., destruction of human life. These are tactical guns even when they only fire in semi-auto mode. They can be used for hunting or sport shooting, but that’s not what they are designed to do.

              Reason #4. Banning assault rifles does not infringe on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ at all. The 2nd Amendment is an amendment, not a ‘right.’ Rights are defined by laws and the Courts have held consistently that government can outlaw guns that are too dangerous for ordinary ownership or use.

              Reason #5. If the Federal Government were to compensate every owner of an assault rifle at fair market value for turning in his/her gun, the total cost would be 11 billion dollars. The 2020FY budget is $4.83 trillion dollars. As Bill Clinton would say, do the math.  It’s nothing.

If you haven’t, please sign our petition: https://www.change.org/Ban_Assault_Rifles_Now

What’s The Difference Between An Assault Rifle And A ‘Sporting’ Gun?

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              I have to hand it to the gun industry. Their products haven’t changed in form or function for more than 100 years, but they keep finding new ways to package what they keep selling to the same consumers again and again.

              Back in 2000 or 2001, the gun industry started getting worried about the possibility that the ten-year assault rifle ban enacted in 1994 might be renewed, with a renewal leading to a permanent ban. So the industry began promoting the idea that the assault rifle was just another ‘sporting’ gun, the idea being that as long as a weapon only fired in semi-auto mode, it couldn’t be considered a military gun because the troops all carried full-auto guns.

              Oops! The battle rifle that was distributed to U.S. troops beginning in 1994, replaced the full-auto sear with a selective lever which allows the gun to be shot in either semi-auto or 3-shot bursts. So if a trooper decides that the tactical situation requires that he set the gun on semi-auto mode, is he now going into battle with a ‘sporting’ gun?

              Then there was a bigger problem which occurred in 2008, thank to my late friend Tony Scalia, whose majority opinion granting Constitutional protection for civilian gun ownership only covered handguns. His decision effectively meant that all long guns, including assault rifles, were not given any kind of Constitutional protection at all.

              Guess what? In 2015, the city of Highland Park passed a law which gave residents who owned assault rifles two choices: they could get rid of their gun, sell it, destroy it, whatever, or they could keep their gun, sell their house and move out of town. The Supreme Court refused to review the case. In New York State you can own an assault rifle but you had to have acquired it before a gun law, the SAFE Act, was passed in 2013. Ditto in Maryland thanks to a law passed in 2014.

              What will happen if Joe wins the Presidential contest and the Senate turns blue? I guarantee there will be a federal gun law which will either extend background checks to private sales, or ban assault rifles, or both. Which means gun makers better come up with a new product line that can protect them from being the targets of another liberal assault.

              And guess what?  They not only have such a product that can easily take the place of assault rifles in the arsenals of all those law-abiding Americans who really believe that a gun will keep them safe from the Antifa gang. It’s also a product which gives them all the firepower and lethality of an assault rifle without making them vulnerable to any attempt to take assault rifles out of civilian hands.

              Remember – the 2008 Heller decision said that Americans had Constitutional protection if they wanted to keep a handgun in their home. The ruling said nothing about rifles, and in fact a later attempt by Heller to get his personal assault rifle protected by the Constitution was turned back.

              Know the only difference between the standard assault rifle and the Heckler & Koch handgun pictured above? The length of the barrel – that’s it. If a gun has a barrel that is 16 inches or longer, under federal law it’s a long gun and not protected by the 2nd Amendment, which is why the assault rifle ban enacted in Highland Park was upheld. But if a gun has all the same design and function features as an assault rifle but sports a barrel less than 16 inches in length, it’s a handgun, okay?

              What makes the assault rifle so definitively dangerous is one, specific aspect of its design, namely, that it loads from underneath the frame which means it can take a magazine which holds 20, 30, 40 rounds or more. And if the gun has a lever-type of magazine release, which is found on the gun pictured above, a shooter can release and reload a 30-shot magazine in a second or less.

              The kid who shot and killed 26 adults and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School fired off more than 90 rounds in two minutes or less. Sorry folks, but that’s not a ‘sporting’ gun, I don’t care what Gun-nut Nation says.

I got my flu shot today. Please get yours.

Tom Gabor: Canada’s Assault Weapons Ban—Can the US Follow?

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Following the murder of 22 people in Canada, the country’s worst multiple murder, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would ban the use, purchase, sale, transportation, and importation of assault-style weapons.  One of the guns used by the perpetrator was classified by investigators as “a military-style assault rifle.”  The ban covers 1,500 models and types of firearms and took effect on May 1, less than two weeks after the murder spree.

Trudeau asserted that “These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada.”

The government outlined the justification for the ban.  Assault-style firearms were deemed unsuitable for hunting or sports shooting purposes, given their inherent danger to public safety. The firearms prohibited were designed for military uses and were capable of injuring or killing humans quickly in large numbers given their tactical design and capability of holding a quickly reloadable large-capacity magazine. While some of these newly prohibited firearms were previously used for hunting or sporting purposes, the Canadian Government took the view that the significant risk they pose to public safety outweighs any justification for their continued use, given that numerous types of firearms remain available for recreational purposes.  The new ban also correctly notes that many of the deadliest mass shootings around the world have been perpetrated with assault-style weapons.

A large majority (80%) of Canadians support the ban and Canada is by no means an anti-gun country.  In fact, it has one of the world’s highest per capita gun ownership rates, with about 35 guns per 100 people.  Canada’s response to the massacre is similar to bans of entire classes of weapons seen in Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand following large-scale mass shootings and murder sprees in those countries.

The Canadian Prime Minister announced a two-year “amnesty period” to allow gun owners to comply with the law.  The government is planning to buy back the banned weapons, although they left open the possibility that existing owners could apply to have them grandfathered.  This issue, as well as the planned compensation for those who currently possess the banned weapons, will be addressed in future legislation.

The Trudeau Government should be applauded for its decisive and prompt action, as the political will to undertake such a significant step tends to wane with time, especially as there are financial costs to such a broad buyback of arms.  In addition, discussing but failing to impose the ban immediately has been known to lead to a surge in sales of the weapons expected to be the subject of an anticipated ban.

One of the lamest but most common criticisms of the ban was voiced by Canada’s Conservative Party leader:   “The people who will not follow these new regulations are the drug dealers and the gun traffickers, and the people who choose to do evil with firearms. So we believe this is completely ineffective.” 

This is utter nonsense.  Many mass shootings are committed by people without criminal records and, often, the weapons used are obtained legally.  By failing to ban these arms, we are making it easier for a prospective mass shooter to purchase them legally.  Studies in the US show that over half of all mass shootings are domestic killings, some of which spill over to include other victims.  In addition, not everyone has easy access to illicit markets.  For example, teenagers who target a school may find it difficult to purchase an AR-15 from traffickers or to afford such weapons once they are available through illicit markets only.  Like prohibited drugs, the cost of smuggled firearms may be many times that of the same models obtained from a gun shop.

As the Nova Scotia shooter is believed to have obtained some of his weapons illegally from the US, concern remains that some people can circumvent a ban by obtaining the prohibited weapons south of the border.  There is no doubt that additional resources are required at crossings along the 4,000 mile US-Canada border to minimize trafficking into Canada.  Even with a porous border, the ban will prevent the legal purchase of many highly lethal models of firearms within Canada.

The Canadian Government has kept the door open for the possible grandfathering of existing weapons covered by the ban.  What justification is there for the grandfathering of a weapon the government claims is meant for war and unsuited for civilians?  Exempting weapons already manufactured at the time the US Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 took effect had the perverse effect of increasing the arsenal of weapons to be banned as manufacturers ramped up production when the ban was imminent.  This situation seriously undercut the impact of the ban as models subject to the ban could still be sold once the law had taken effect.  The prompt Canadian ban will prevent the arsenal from increasing but, with grandfathering, a large number of weapons now subject to the ban (estimated at 100,000) will still be in circulation.

The new regulations recognize the possibility that new models of firearms, with simply cosmetic modifications, can be developed to get around the ban.  Rather than simply identifying models covered by the ban, I would like to see a clear definition of an “assault weapon”.  While several features should be considered as part of this definition, I’ll leave it to the gunsmiths to come up with one. 

Opponents of the ban argue that it is handguns that ought to be banned as they are used in far more crimes than assault-style rifles.  In Canada, handguns have been restricted and subject to registration since the 1930s.  Very few Canadians are authorized to carry guns for self-defense.  Still, they are more frequently used in crime than semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15.  Further restrictions on handguns may be considered at a later date. 

By contrast, in the State of Florida alone, two million people have permits to carry concealed weapons.  Most US states have “shall issue” laws, requiring the granting of such permits when basic conditions are met.  Then, there are about a dozen states that allow the carrying of handguns without any permit or training at all.  In some states, guns can even be carried into public buildings, including legislatures that are in session, as we saw recently in Michigan.   America is an outlier not just in number of guns per capita, but in the permissiveness of right-to-carry laws in many states.  At the same time, the US has by far the most serious gun violence problem among affluent countries.  The gun homicide rate is 25 times that of these other countries, when they are considered together.  Still, gun rights advocates argue that guns make us safer as a society.  There is not a shred of credible evidence to support this fantasy.

Can the US follow Canada in banning assault-style weapons?  Of course it can.  In the landmark 2008 Heller ruling, Justice Scalia of the US Supreme Court noted that weapons deemed to be “dangerous” were not protected by the Second Amendment.  The Framers would never have envisioned weapons like the AR-15.  In fact, Michael Waldman, the Second Amendment scholar from the Brennan Center for Justice, found that in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and in the notes of James Madison and the other participants, private gun ownership never came up at all!    

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